O, Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how dangerous you can be!
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2011-15 there were 200 home fires yearly that started with Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of six deaths, 16 injuries, and $14.8 million in direct property damage annually.
Fortunately, the NFPA offers simple tips on how to prevent a tannenbaum tragedy.
First, when picking a real tree, choose one with fresh, green needles that don't fall off when touched. Be sure to cut two inches from the base of the trunk before placing the tree in its stand, which should be at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, or heat vents. The tree should not block an exit.
When lighting the tree, use only lights that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Never use lit candles to trim the tree, and always turn off the lights before leaving home or going to bed.
But Christmas trees aren't the only potential danger.
According to the NFPA, U.S. fire departments responded to around 840 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, in 2011-15. These fires caused an annual average of two deaths, 36 injuries, and $11.4 million in direct property damage.
The Texas Department of Insurance and the State Fire Marshal's Office also have tips for safely decorating your home for the holidays.
Before hanging your lights, check each set (new or old) for broken sockets, frayed wires, or loose connections. Secure all lights on firm supports to protect them from wind damage. Use insulated staples when securing lights, and make sure all electric currents are off while hanging the lights, especially when using a staple gun.
While most Texans don't get a white Christmas, they often experience winter rain. Waterproof all electrical connections, and keep them elevated and a way from rainwater drainage. For added protection, plug lights into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters, which can be found at hardware stores.
When lighting candles indoors, make sure all flammable objects are removed from the area. Keep an eye on children and pets around flames. Opt for flameless, LED candles if you can.
And again, always turn off your lights and blow out our candles before you leave or go to bed. You can also buy timers so you'll never forget to shut down for the night.
If you haven't already, review your home insurance coverage to ensure you're covered in case of a fire or other disaster.
So this year, be sure to deck the halls, not burn them.